Indians 40-Man Roster updated ahead of Rule 5 Draft

USA TODAY Sports

Today the Indians have to finalize their 40-man roster for the purposes of the Rule 5 draft. In other words, today is their last chance to protect a Rule 5-eligible player before the draft next month.

2013 in Review: Minors

Levels: DSL Indians (R-) AZL Indians (R-) Mahoning Valley (SSA) Lake County (A-) Carolina (A+) Akron (AA) Columbus (AAA)

Players: SS Francisco Lindor • C Tony Wolters • RHP Mitch Brown • SS Dorssys Paulino • OF Tyler Naquin • 2B/SS Ronny Rodriguez • OF Luigi Rodriguez • OF LeVon Washington • RHP Cody Anderson • OF Clint Frazier • RHP Trevor Bauer

UPDATE (Wednesday, 3:20 PM):

To make room for those players, the Indians also DFA'd Cord Phelps. David Murphy is not on the 40-man yet either, which means another move will be coming in the next couple days.

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This is not a high-profile day in the offseason calendar, but the Indians' decisions will have an effect both on the Rule 5 draft as well as roster management next year and beyond. Keep in mind that a prospect already on the 40-man roster has a leg up on a prospect not on the 40-man roster, so being added will make a prospect's path to the majors quite a bit easier.

But before we get in to the details, a quick overview of the Rule 5 Draft.

The Rule 5 Draft exists to serve as an outlet for prospects buried in a team's system. A player who is not on a 40-man roster can become a minor-league free agent after seven seasons in the minors, but until then he is tied to the organization that drafted or signed him. With the exception of the Rule 5 draft. After four (or five, if he was 19 years or younger when signed or drafted) seasons, if a player is not placed on a club's 40-man roster, he is eligible for selection by any other MLB club. But there are restrictions. If a player is drafted, he has to remain on his new club's 25-man roster (or major-league disabled list) the entire season. Given how precious those 25-man roster spots are, that could be quite a burden for a club with aims at contention, but teams will do it. In fact, two former Indians prospects were lost to the Rule 5 draft last year, as TJ McFarland (Baltimore) and Hector Rondon (Chicago Cubs) were kept on the 25-man roster all season. And in McFarland's case, he was kept on a contending team's roster.

Here, as of this morning, is the current 40-man roster:

(click to embiggen)

Nov_10_2013_medium

The Indians currently have 36 on their 40-man roster, so they can add four without having to drop anyone. However, keep in mind that the Indians will be signing at least a couple major-league free agents, so they'll need to make for them either now or when the signings happen. The Indians could also DFA some players today if they need to make room for more than four additions. Lou Marson, Cord Phelps, Matt Carson, and Tyler Cloyd seem to be the bottom four on the roster, and one (or more) could be DFAd if the Indians wanted to add an addition Rule 5-eligible player to the 40-man roster.

Here are the players currently in the Tribe minor-league system that are my estimation eligible for the Rule 5 Draft. These are players that have been in the minors for four years (if signed/drafted at age 20 or older) or five years (signed/drafted at age 19 or younger). If I missed anybody or included someone that isn't eligible, please don't hesitate to correct me, as this is my own compilation done via looking a b-ref pages.

Columbus (AAA): RP Bryan Price, RP Giovanni Soto, RP Tyler Sturdevant, RP Francisco Valera, C Roberto Perez, 1B Chun-Hsiu Chen, UT Justin Toole, OF Tim Fedroff

Akron (AA): RP Austin Adams, SP Brett Brach, SP Jordan Cooper, SP Matt Packer, SP Mike Rayl, RP Bryce Stowell, RP Enosil Tejeda, C Alex Monsalve, C Chris Wallace, UT Adam Abraham, 1B Jesus Aguilar, IF Matt Lawson, 3B Giovanny Urshela, OF Tyler Holt, OF Carlos Moncrief

Carolina (A+): LHP Elvis Araujo, RHP Joseph Colon, RHP Cole Cook, RHP Owen Dew, RHP JD Reichenbach, RHP Robert Whitenack, SS Erik Gonzalez, OF Anthony Gallas,

Lake County (A-), Mahoning Valley (SSA), AZL Indians (R-), DSL Indians (R-): None

I've excluded minor-league free agent signings like Matt Capps and Jason Giambi, because although technically eligible to be drafted, you hardly ever see a club draft a player who just signed as a minor-league agent somewhere else.

So by my count there are 31 players eligible in the Indians' system. I've taken the liberty to break those 31 players into three groups of players:

1) Good chance of getting selected

OF Carlos Moncrief, 1B Jesus Aguilar, RHP Enosil Tejeda, 3B Giovanni Urshela, LHP Giovanni Soto, C Roberto Perez, OF Tyler Holt, RHP Bryan Price

I think other clubs could come with some compelling reasons why to select each one of these players, both from a talent standpoint and a 25-man roster standpoint. For instance, Roberto Perez could quite easily fill a backup catcher's role at the MLB level (though his offense isn't ready yet), Carlos Moncrief and Tyler Holt could be fourth outfielders, Giovanny Urshela could play some shortstop if needed in utility infielder's role, and Tejeda, Price, and Soto could fill roles in bullpens. Only Aguilar doesn't really fit the profile of a Rule 5 selection, but perhaps his Venezuelan Winter League performance has attracted some attention.

2) Decent chance of getting selected

C Alex Monsalve, LHP Elvis Araujo, LHP Matt Packer, RHP Jordan Cooper, RHP Bryce Stowell, RHP Austin Adams, RHP Joseph Colon, 1B Chun-Hsiu Chen, RHP Francisco Valera, SS Erik Gonzalez

This next tier I could possibly see picked, but either I think there isn't enough upside or way too much risk to use a Rule 5 selection on. Monsalve and Araujo are the two in this grouping that I'd really hate to lose, but at the same there are several players ahead of them that I'd rather see protected.

3) Little chance of getting selected

LHP Tyler Sturdevant, RHP Cole Cook, IF Matt Lawson, RHP Owen Dew, UT Adam Abraham, OF Tim Fedroff, RHP JD Reichenbach, UT Justin Toole, C Chris Wallace, RHP Brett Brach, LHP Mike Rayl, RHP Robert Whitenack, OF Anthony Gallas

This group comprises players that missed large chunks of last season due to injury, had poor seasons, or don't project as major-league players. I'm including Fedroff here because the 29 other clubs already had a chance to claim him on waivers but failed to do so.

The decision to protect or not to protect a player can be based purely on the player's talent, but there's also some strategy that goes into the decision. Sometimes a team may protect a marginal prospect based on his attractiveness as a Rule 5 selection. Sometimes a club will not protect a good prospect based on his unattractiveness as a Rule 5 selection. What do I mean by that? Because the player has to stay on the 25-man roster the entire season, clubs are looking for players who could at least for one season fill a bench or bullpen role on a club. Speedy guys who can play multiple positions, a defensive-minded catcher, left-handed pitchers all tend to be selected, all things being equal, over players who don't have much positional flexibility.

If it was my decision, here's who I'd add given several different roster limitations:

  • Two additions: OF Carlos Moncrief, 3B Giovanny Urshela. Both have the potential to be major-league starters, and could defensively play at the major-league level right now.
  • Three additions: OF Carlos Moncrief, 3B Giovanny Urshela, LHP Giovanni Soto. Left-handed pitchers tend to be prized in the Rule 5 draft, and if (big if) Soto can ever stay healthy, he could be a major-league reliever as soon as 2014.
  • Four additions: OF Carlos Moncrief, 3B Giovanny Urshela, LHP Giovanni Soto, RHP Bryan Price. An older prospect but he was dominant in Columbus a year ago and could win a spot in the bullpen this spring, whether it be for the Indians or someone else.

After that I'd go: RHP Enosil Tejeda, 1B Jesus Aguilar, OF Tyler Holt, C Roberto Perez, LHP Elvis Araujo, and C Alex Monsalve. The reason I'm putting Aguilar lower on my list is because of his positional flexibility, or lack thereof. Whoever drafts him will either have to make him their everyday 1B/DH or put him on the bench.

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